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Covid-19: in DR Congo, anti-vaccine remarks by President Félix Tshisekedi are controversial

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The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, has not yet been vaccinated and is increasing criticism of the AstraZeneca vaccine. A communication which contrasts with the efforts of the government, which tries to make accept the serum in the public opinion vis-a-vis the increase of the contaminations and the presence of the “very contagious” variant Delta in the country.

“I did well not to get the vaccine.” These remarks made by the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, on Thursday, July 1, sparked a lively controversy in the country.

The Congolese head of state is increasing criticism of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the government tries to get it accepted in public opinion in the face of the increase in contaminations and the presence of the “very contagious” variant Delta in the country.

Many would have liked to see the president take the lead. “I personally took my responsibilities and I was vaccinated on June 10 to set an example so that the Congolese follow in my footsteps,” said former presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, without citing the current president.

Seth Kikuni, another unsuccessful 2018 presidential candidate, called on him not to vote for Felix Tshisekedi in the next presidential election, when the latter announced Thursday that he would stand for re-election in 2023.

Criticisms of the president also relayed by diplomats stationed in Kinshasa, while the African Union massively ordered AstraZeneca and received doses via Covax. “As president of the African Union, he should have done it differently,” said an African ambassador anonymously.

The vaccination campaign is slipping

The vaccination campaign, launched last April, is struggling to convince in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In two and a half months, less than 60,000 people received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the only one available in the country. Many Congolese, like the president, doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine and its reliability.

To reassure the population, the government has announced an order for 6 million doses of other vaccines which should arrive in the coming weeks.

The Delta variant represents most of the contaminations

But the country is facing a third wave of Covid-19 quite worrying with the spread of the Delta variant, more virulent, which represents 84% ​​of contaminations in the country, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Hospitals are saturated with Covid-19 patients and fear an oxygen shortage while the number of known cases is only increasing, according to health authorities.

With AFP, Patient Ligodi, RFI correspondent, and Clément Bonnerot, France 24 correspondent in Kinshasa

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